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Hui Li, Yu-Han Meng, Wen-Qing Shang, Li-Bing Liu, Xuan Chen, Min-Min Yuan, Li-Ping Jin, Ming-Qing Li and Da-Jin Li

Chemokine CCL24, acting through receptor CCR3, is a potent chemoattractant for eosinophil in allergic diseases and parasitic infections. We recently reported that CCL24 and CCR3 are co-expressed by trophoblasts in human early pregnant uterus. Here we prove with evidence that steroid hormones estradiol (E), progesterone (P), and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), as well as decidual stromal cells (DSCs) could regulate the expression of CCL24 and CCR3 of trophoblasts. We further investigate how trophoblast-derived CCL24 mediates the function of trophoblasts in vitro, and conclude that CCL24/CCR3 promotes the proliferation, viability and invasiveness of trophoblasts. In addition, analysis of the downstream signaling pathways of CCL24/CCR3 show that extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathways may contribute to the proliferation, viability and invasiveness of trophoblasts by activating intracellular molecules Ki67 and matrix metallopeptidase 9 (MMP9). However, we did not observe any inhibitory effect on trophoblasts when blocking c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) or p38 pathways. In conclusion, our data suggests that trophoblast-derived CCL24 at the maternal-fetal interface promotes trophoblasts cell growth and invasiveness by ERK1/2 and PI3K pathways. Meanwhile, pregnancy-related hormones (P and hCG), as well as DSCs could up-regulate CCL24/CCR3 expression in trophoblasts, which may indirectly influence the biological functions of trophoblasts. Thus, our results provide a possible explanation for the growth and invasion of trophoblasts in human embryo implantation.

Open access

C Rollo, Y Li, X L Jin and C O’Neill

Acetylation of histone proteins is a major determinant of chromatin structure and function. Fertilisation triggers a round of chromatin remodelling that prepares the genome for the first round of transcription from the new embryonic genome. In this study we confirm that fertilisation leads to a marked progressive increase in the level of histone 3 lysine 9 acetylation in both the paternally and maternally derived genomes. The culture of zygotes in simple defined media caused a marked increase in the global level of acetylation and this affected the male pronucleus more than the female. The culture created a marked asymmetry in staining between the two pronuclei that was not readily detected in zygotes collected directly from the reproductive tract and was ameliorated to some extent by optimized culture media. The increased acetylation caused by culture resulted in increased transcription of Hspa1b, a marker of embryonic genome activation. Pharmacological analyses showed the hyperacetylation of H3K9 and the increased expression of Hspa1b caused by culture were due to the altered net activity of a range of histone acetylases and deacetylases. The marked hyperacetylation of histone 3 lysine 9 caused by culture of zygotes may serve as an early biomarker for the effects of culture on the normal function of the embryo. The results also provide further evidence for an effect of the stresses associated with assisted reproductive technologies on the normal patterns of epigenetic reprogramming in the early embryo.

Free access

Ke-Ming Xie, Xiao-Fan Hou, Ming-Qing Li and Da-Jin Li

Nometastatic gene 23-H1 (NME1, also known as nm23-H1) is a wide-spectrum tumor metastasis suppressor gene that plays an important role in suppressing the invasion and metastasis of tumor cells. It has been demonstrated that NME1 is also expressed in human first-trimester placenta, but its function at maternal–fetal interface is not clear. The present study aimed to elucidate the biological function of NME1 at the maternal–fetal interface, especially on invasion of the human extravillous cytotrophoblasts (EVCTs). NME1 has been identified in both human trophoblast cells and decidual stromal cells (DSCs) in early pregnancy. We have proved that NME1 silencing in vitro increases the titin protein translation in the invasive EVCTs. Moreover, NME1 can inactivate the phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (P-ERK1/2) in trophoblasts in a time-dependent manner, and U0126, an inhibitor of MAPK/ERK, can inhibit partly the enhanced invasiveness and titin expression in trophoblasts induced by NME1 silencing. Interestingly, the expression of NME1 in either villi or decidua is higher significantly in miscarriage than that of the normal early pregnancy. These findings first reveal that the NME1 expressed in trophoblasts and DSCs controls the inappropriate invasion of human first-trimester trophoblast cells via MAPK/ERK1/2 signal pathway, and the overexpression of NME1 at maternal–fetal interface leads to pregnancy wastage.

Free access

Hui-Li Yang, Wen-Jie Zhou, Kai-Kai Chang, Jie Mei, Li-Qing Huang, Ming-Yan Wang, Yi Meng, Si-Yao Ha, Da-Jin Li and Ming-Qing Li

The dysfunction of NK cells in women with endometriosis (EMS) contributes to the immune escape of menstrual endometrial fragments refluxed into the peritoneal cavity. The reciprocal communications between endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) and lymphocytes facilitate the development of EMS. However, the mechanism of these communications on cytotoxicity of natural killer (NK) cells in endometriotic milieus is still largely unknown. To imitate the local immune microenvironment, the co-culture systems of ESCs from patients with EMS and monocyte-derived macrophages or of ESCs, macrophages and NK cells were constructed. The cytokine levels in the co-culture unit were evaluated by ELISA. The expression of functional molecules in NK cells was detected by flow cytometry (FCM). The NK cell behaviors in vitro were analyzed by cell counting kit-8 and cytotoxic activation assays. After incubation with ESCs and macrophages, the expression of CD16, NKG2D, perforin and IFN-γ, viability and cytotoxicity of NK cells were significantly downregulated. The secretion of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β in the co-culture system of ESCs and macrophages was increased. Exposure with anti-IL-10 receptor β neutralizing antibody (αhIL-10Rβ) or αTGF-β could partly reverse these effects of ESCs and macrophages on NK cells in vitro. These results suggest that the interaction between macrophages and ESCs downregulates cytotoxicity of NK cells possibly by stimulating the secretion of IL-10 and TGF-β, and may further trigger the immune escape of ectopic fragments and promote the occurrence and the development of EMS.

Free access

Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Xin-Xin Song, Yin-Chuan Li, Zhao-Yuan Hu and Yi-Xun Liu

Stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) is a recently discovered polypeptide hormone, while stanniocalcin-2 (STC-2) is a subsequently identified homologue of stanniocalcin-1. Although previous studies have shown that both STC-1 and -2 are involved in various physiological processes, such as ion transport, reproduction and development, their expression in the uterus and roles in implantation and early pregnancy are unclear. Here we have investigated the expression and regulation of both STC-1 and STC-2 in rat uterus during early pregnancy under various physiological conditions. We show that only basal levels of STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were detected in the uterus from day one (D1) to day five (D5) of pregnancy. STC-2 immunostaining was gradually increased in the glandular epithelium from day two (D2), with a peak occurring on D5. High levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were observed in the stoma cells at the implantation site on day six (D6) of pregnancy, whereas their immunostaining signals were also significant in the luminal epithelium. Basal levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA and STC-1 immunostaining were detected in the uterus with delayed implantation. After the delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment, both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were significantly induced in the stroma underlying the luminal epithelium at the implantation site, and STC-2 immunostaining was also observed in the luminal epithelium surrounding the implanting blastocyst. Embryo transfer experiments further confirmed that STC-1 and STC-2 expression at the implantation sites was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Both STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were seen in the decidualized cells from day seven (D7) to day nine (D9) of pregnancy. STC-2 mRNA was also found in the whole decidua from D7 to D9 of pregnancy; STC-2 protein, however, was strictly localized to the primary deciduas on D7 and D8, with a weak expression in the whole deciduas on D9. Consistent with the normal pregnancy process, strong STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were detected in the decidualized cells under artificial decidualization, whereas only basal levels of STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were observed in the control horn. These data suggest, for the first time, that STC-1 together with STC-2 may play important roles in the processes of implantation and decidualization in the rat.

Free access

Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Yin-Chuan Li, Rui Wang, Zhao-Yuan Hu and Yi-Xun Liu

The extracellular Ca2+-sensing receptor (CaR) is a member of the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). It is an important mediator of a wide range of Ca2+-dependent physiological responses in various tissues. In reproductive tissues it has been reported to play a significant role in promoting or maintaining placentation. Meanwhile, another Ca2+ regulated gene stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) has been documented to be involved in decidualization and uterine remodelling. The phenomenon that CaR mediates STC-1’s transcription responding to extracellular calcium in fish urges us to suppose that CaR, like STC-1, may also play a role in implantation and decidualization. To resolve this conjecture, we have examined the expression and hormonal regulation of the CaR gene in rat uterus during peri-implantation period.

CaR mRNA was expressed at a moderate level in the luminal epithelium of the early stage of pregnancy (from day 1 to day 3). From day 2–3 it began to be expressed more strongly in the stromal cells immediately underneath the luminal epithelium, but decreased to a basal level on day 4. From day 6 to day 9 continuously, both CaR mRNA and protein were highly expressed in the primary decidua. Expression of CaR mRNA and protein in these cells was also observed when a delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment to allow the embryo implantation. In contrast, only basal level expression of the molecules was detected in the cells of animals subjected to a normal-delayed implantation or the pseudopregnant condition.

Embryo transplantation experiment confirmed that CaR expression at the implantation site was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Consistent with the normal pregnant process, CaR mRNA and protein in the cells were also induced by an artificial decidualization procedure. Further experiments demonstrated that treatment of the ovariectomized rat with estrogen or/and progesterone stimulated a high level expression of CaR mRNA in the uterine epithelial and glandular epithelium. In conclusion, CaR was specifically induced during the processes of implantation and subsequent decidualization and may play a role in these processes.

Free access

Wen-Hui Zhou, Lin Dong, Mei-Rong Du, Xiao-Yong Zhu and Da-Jin Li

Immune regulation during pregnancy is complex, and thus an optimal therapy for pregnancy complications is always a big challenge to reproductive medicine. Cyclosporin A (CsA), a potent immunosuppressant, prevents rejection of allografts by hosts, but little is known about the modulating effect of CsA on the materno-fetal relationship. Here, pregnant CBA/J females mated with DBA/2 males as an abortion-prone model were administered with CsA on day 4.5 of gestation, and the pregnant CBA/J females mated with BALB/c males were established as successful pregnancy control. It was demonstrated that administration of CsA at the window of implantation significantly up-regulated the expression of CTLA-4, while down-regulating the levels of CD80, CD86, and CD28 at the materno-fetal interface in the CBA/J×DBA/2 abortion-prone matings, and the embryo resorption rate of the abortion-prone matings reduced significantly after CsA treatment, implying that modulation of costimulatory molecule expression by CsA might contribute to preventing the fetus from maternal immune attack. In addition, treatment with CsA induced enhanced growth and reduced cell apoptosis of the murine trophoblast cells. Together, these findings indicate that CsA has a beneficial effect on the materno-fetal interface in abortion-prone matings, leading to a pregnancy outcome improvement, which might provide new therapeutics for spontaneous pregnancy wastage.

Open access

Christine Faraci, Sofia Annis, Joyce Jin, Housaiyin Li, Konstantin Khrapko and Dori C Woods

The mtDNA ‘mutator’ mouse, also called the ‘POLG’ mouse, is a well-characterized model frequently used for studies of progeroid aging. Harboring a mutation in the proofreading domain of the mitochondrial polymerase, polymerase-γ (Polg), POLG mice acquire mtDNA mutations at an accelerated rate. This results in premature mitochondrial dysfunction and a systemic aging phenotype. Previous work has demonstrated that the progeroid phenotype in POLG is attenuated following endurance exercise, the only reported intervention to extend health span and lifespan of these mice. Herein, oocyte quality was evaluated in sedentary and exercised POLG mice. In mice homozygous for the Polg mutation, litter size is dramatically reduced as compared to heterozygous Polg mice. Following ovarian hyper-stimulation, oocytes were retrieved until 9 months of age in exercised and sedentary groups, with no oocytes ovulated thereafter. Although ovulated oocyte numbers were not impacted by exercise, we did find a modest improvement in both the ovarian follicle reserve and in oocyte quality based on meiotic spindle assembly, chromosomal segregation and mitochondrial distribution at 7 months of age in exercised POLG mice as compared to sedentary counterparts. Of note, analysis of mtDNA mutational load revealed no differences between exercised and sedentary groups. Collectively, these data indicate that exercise differentially influences somatic tissues of the POLG mouse as compared to oocytes, highlighting important mechanistic differences between mitochondrial regulatory mechanisms in the soma and the germline.

Free access

Yexia Li, Yujie Jin, Yuxia Liu, Chunyan Shen, Jingxia Dong and Jian Xu

The function of Smad3, a downstream signaling protein of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) pathway, in ovarian follicle development remains to be elucidated. The effects of Smad3 on ovarian granulosa cells (GCs) in rat were studied. Female rats (21 days of age Sprague–Dawley) received i.p. injections of pregnant mare serum gonadotropin, and GCs were harvested for primary culture 48 h later. These cells were engineered to overexpress or knockdown Smad3, which were validated by immunohistochemistry and western blot. The expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), cyclin D2, TGFβ receptor II (TGFβRII), protein kinase A (PKA), and FSH receptor (FSHR) was also detected by western blotting. Cell cycle and apoptosis of GCs were assayed by flow cytometry. The level of estrogen secreted by GCs was detected by ELISA. Smad3 overexpression promoted estrogen production and proliferation while inhibiting apoptosis of GCs. Reduction in Smad3 by RNAi resulted in reduced estrogen production and proliferation and increased apoptosis of GCs. Manipulation of Smad3 expression also resulted in changes in FSHR and PKA expression, suggesting that the effects of Smad3 on follicle development are related to FSHR-mediated cAMP signaling.

Free access

Hong-Fei Xia, Jing-Li Cao, Xiao-Hua Jin and Xu Ma

MiR199a was found to be differentially expressed in rat uteri between the prereceptive and receptive phase via microRNA (miRNA) microarray analysis in our previous study. However, the role of miR199a in rat embryo implantation remained unknown. In the study, northern blot results showed that the expression levels of miR199a were higher on gestation days 5 and 6 (g.d.5–6) in rat uteri than on g.d.3–4 and g.d.7–8. In situ localization of miR199a in rat uteri showed that miR199a was mainly localized in the stroma or decidua. The expression of miR199a was not significantly different in the uteri of pseudopregnant rats and evidently increased in the uteri of rats subjected to activation of delayed implantation and experimentally induced decidualization. Treatment with 17β-estradiol or both 17β-estradiol and progesterone significantly diminished miR199a levels. Gain of function of miR199a in endometrial stromal cells isolated from rat uteri inhibited cell proliferation and promoted cell apoptosis. Loss of function of miR199a displayed opposite roles on cell proliferation and apoptosis. Further investigation uncovered a significant inverse association between the expression of miR199a and growth factor receptor-bound protein 10 (Grb10), an imprinted gene, and miR199a could bind to the 3′UTR of Grb10 to inhibit Grb10 translation. In addition, in vivo analysis found that the immunostaining of GRB10 was attenuated in the stroma or decidua from g.d.4 to 6, contrary to the enhancement of miR199a. Collectively, upregulation of miR199a in rat uterus during the receptive phase is regulated by blastocyst activation and uterine decidualization. Enforced miR199a expression suppresses cell proliferation partially through targeting Grb10.